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Power Slap – the brain injury clinician’s worst nightmare?

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NR Times reports on a dangerous new interpretation of combat sport in which self-defence is outlawed.

 “It makes me lose a little faith in humanity,” says neuroscientist Dustin Hines.

The source of his despair is Power Slap, a brutal offshoot of combat sport which sees competitors deliver open hand slaps across the face of their opponent.

To ensure maximum damage, however, ‘fighters’ are forbidden from defending themselves. Instead they must hold a metal bar behind them, as they brace for impact.

Emerging out of slapping contests that accompanied Russia’s bodybuilding circuit, Power Slap has been coated in American TV gloss and packaged into the latest in fight-based entertainment. It is fronted by UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) president Dana White.

Hines, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says: “I was shocked initially when I saw it, and even more shocked when I saw it more regularly and becoming mainstream, but I really think this is the intent of the organisers.

“As someone who has devoted their life to studying the brain and brain injury I feel compelled to educate people as to how brain injuries can impact a lifetime.”

The neurological dangers, says Hines, are “immense”.

“The chance of getting multiple concussions back-to-back is high – back-to-back concussions can have compounding effects. Also ruptured eardrums, broken jaws etc are common,” he adds.

Does the neuroscientist, therefore, argue that Power Slap should be banned?

“As a ‘brain guy’ I am not fully informed about how laws apply, but I do feel that if contestants are being incentivised to do this, and long-term disability like CTE arise there will be an obvious need to support these people long term.

“Ultimately I think [boxing promoter and TV producer] Lou Di Bella said it best by calling this ‘organised brain damage’.”

Dan Hardy, former UFC welterweight title challenger, calls branded Power Slap “CTE for money”, speaking on his Triggernometry podcast.

And other former fighters and influential figures within the fight game have echoed these sentiments.

Johnny Nelson, Sky Sports pundit and former WBO cruiserweight title holder, tells NR Times: “With head injury and concussion a genuine safety issue in some sports, it feels irresponsible. It’s questionable that it’s a sport versus a social media fad.”

Nelson is also concerned about the influence Power Slap could have on younger generations.

“It doesn’t feel like a positive message for today’s kids. I wouldn’t want to see this reciprocated in the school yard.”

Nelson hopes that Dana White and his team “are factoring in safety issues, health, advice and support”.

He says: “If the right safety guidance isn’t in place, it’s not something I can support. I’m not an expert in it, but from what I’ve seen on social media, it doesn’t feel safe or responsible.”

Another concerned expert is YouTuber and podcaster True Geordie – real name Brian Davis – who commentates on combat sports on his live show ‘The Knock Out’. He has also interviewed former UFC champions such as Francis Ngannou and Kamaru Usman on his ‘True Geordie Podcast’.

He tells NR Times: “The very invention of all martial arts was brought about due to the need for self-defence.

“The competition aspect of it was brought about to see who could perform the discipline the best or in the case of MMA which of the martial arts would best protect the man on the street.

“What Power Slap has done is taken all of the pageantry of fighting, the entrances, weigh ins and face offs, for example, to pretend like this is some sort of combat sport but deliberately forgotten the route of all martial arts which is self-defence; in favour of having a broke man desperate for the $2k to allow his opponent to smash his head in and do long term damage so that the owners can cash in easily on car crash tv.

True Geordie gives his views on Power Slap on his ‘The Pain Game’ YouTube channel.

“Dana White often quoted Bruce Lee as the founder of MMA when creating the UFC.

“Bruce Lee would be turning in his grave at the sight of this abomination. There will be blood on the hands of everyone behind this sport.”

Nick Blackwell, former professional British boxer who suffered a life-long brain injury whilst in the ring, also tells us he does not agree with Power Slap.

“It should be banned. It’s the most stupid sport I’ve ever seen – just standing there and being slapped in the head so hard you fall unconscious.

“I’ve seen moments where people have fallen down stiff. It is a terrible sport, not that you should call it a sport. It will cause brain injuries and severe concussion. At least with boxing you are trained to defend yourself and move around the ring.

“I don’t see the point of it. It’s dangerous and not setting a good example for young kids growing up thinking that’s OK.”

Gio Torralba, combat sports fan and a prominent digital content creator who recently edited a commercial shown during the Super Bowl, tells us that no comparison should be made between mixed martial artists and competitors in Power Slap.


“MMA is an art-form that takes years, sometimes decades to compete at the highest level.

“It has earned the right to be on the pedestal that Dana White and the UFC have crafted for the world to enjoy.

“In contrast, Power Slap is nothing more than tough guys, causing serious damage to each other for viral moments on social media.

“They should never, ever be compared and I don’t think Power Slap should even be mentioned on UFC broadcasts.”

Read more concussion in sports stories here.

 

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